Friday, December 16, 2011

Sexual Harassment Roundup

Here is a roundup of some recent sexual harassment cases.
  • Title IX claims based on a teacher's inappropriate relationship with a student failed for lack of actual notice. "The complaints against Sweet were nothing more than specific facts that she was a poor teacher. But, mere suspicions are insufficient to prove actual knowledge that Sweet engaged in misconduct." Doe v. St. Francis Sch. Dist., 2011 WL 6026612 (E.D.Wis. Dec 05, 2011).
  • A district court dismissed Section 1983 claims against a middle school principal in his individual capacity, finding that the complaint against him did not allege conduct that would put him outside the realm of qualified immunity from suit. Specifically, the court held that the complaint did not satisfy the standard set forth in the Supreme Court's ruling in Ashcroft v. Iqbal because it did not specifically allege that the principal acted with discriminatory intent. C.C. ex rel. Andrews v. Monroe County Bd. of Educ., 2011 WL 6029758 (S.D.Ala. Dec 05, 2011).
  • A district court in California dismissed most of the claims arising from the harassment of an openly-gay student who committed suicide. Specifically, the plaintiff--the deceased student's mother--did not allege sufficient facts to support a conclusion that teachers participated in the sexual harassment of her son. Some of the plaintiff's allegations of harassment by teachers failed because it was not clear they were targeting the victim because of gender non-conformity; the remainder failed because alone they were not sufficiently "severe or pervasive" as required for institutional liability to attach. Other claims under 1983 and the Equal Protection Clause against school district officials in their individual capacity, based on survived a motion to dismiss. Walsh v. Tehachapi Unified School Dist., 2011 WL 5156791(E.D.Cal. Oct 28, 2011).
And this decision is several months old, but it just showed up on my radar, and is worth noting:
  • A district court in New York dismissed a lawsuit against a school district in which the plaintiff alleged she was harassed by fellow students after another posted photos of her in a sexual encounter with another female. The district court confirmed that Title IX does not cover sexual orientation, so harassment in which the plaintiff was called derogatory names for a lesbian was not actionable. Nor did school district officials have actual notice that the pictures had been posted (on a non-school-related website) or that they had been set as the "wallpaper" on school district computers, and when they did find out, they acted promptly to remove the pictures from the internet and the school computers. Finally, "defendants' purported failure to immediately alert plaintiff's parents or “the authorities” to the existence of pictures of plaintiff on the internet does not establish a triable issue of fact because, inter alia, such failures did not subject plaintiff to harassment, or make her more vulnerable to it." Tyrrell v. Seaford Union Free School Dist., 792 F.Supp.2d 601 (E.D.N.Y. Jun 01, 2011).